The ITF announced, yesterday, that its Tours would include events in China for the first time since 2019.After three years away because of COVID-19 restrictions, the ITF said China and Chinese Taipei would host events. “The ITF anticipates a resumption of tournament activity within China for each of the ITF tours later this year,” it said, in a statement.
The news comes despite the continuing lack of transparency and clarity regarding the safety of former WTA star, Peng Shuai, the Chinese player, who briefly disappeared in 2021 after accusing a former high-ranking government official of sexual assault, an accusation she apparently later retracted.
Announcing record prize money for the women’s ITF Tour, totalling $5 million in April, May and June, the ITF said the new calendar was designed to move the women’s ITF Tour closer to parity with the men’s Tour.
The ITF also emphasised that the new calendar aims to ‘make playing and touring easier to schedule and more cost-effective for professionals.’
“This news is another significant step towards gender parity,” ITF president, Dave Haggerty, said.
“Through our Advantage All programme, the ITF has been investing significantly to achieve this in the professional events that act as the main artery for the top level of the game, and it is very encouraging to see both prize money and tournament numbers for Q2 surpass pre-pandemic levels.
“As the global guardians of the game, we are passionate about providing a pathway for up and coming talent in all countries, and providing more opportunities for players to play closer to home. So we are pleased to be returning to China, Burundi, Cyprus, Trinidad & Tobago and Chinese Taipei, while we welcome Ethiopia as first-time World Tennis Tour hosts.”
The WTA has yet to announce its calendar for the latter part of 2023, insisting that Peng Shuai’s safety is something they must first guarantee.